Brits’ recycling frustration revealed by new research

Brits are growing increasingly frustrated with loved ones and neighbours for their approach to recycling, according to research.

After over a decade of stagnating and declining recycling rates, it has been revealed that more than 79 per cent of people across the UK are regularly frustrated, disappointed or furious with neighbours, partners, and children because they don’t crush or fold their recycling, leading to overflowing bins.

Up to 7.8 million Brits admit to being ‘Folding-Phobic’, saying they don’t fold cardboard, which means items are taking up more space.

The new research from DS Smith, the leading provider of sustainable packaging solutions, revealed that 15 per cent (up to nine million adults) admit to not bothering to recycle at all, and instead, just put it all in the waste bin regardless of whether they can recycle it or not.

The research suggests that these issues may be worsened by the UK recycling system, which has not been updated for some time and could be failing to cope with the increase in packaging in our homes, particularly since the growth in e-commerce.

Jo Bryant, an etiquette expert who has created some helpful tips to follow to avoid recycling rifts, said: “Recycling and recycling well – for example folding cardboard down to make it as small as possible – is part of being in a society, and it is important that we all play our part with consideration and respect towards others.

“Small, thoughtless gestures, such as taking up an extra seat on a train with luggage or not holding a door open, can impact negatively on others and lead to frustration and tension.

So, when it comes to recycling, notably with communal bins, bad habits can quickly lead to frustrations, disappointment and anger with neighbours and the people we live with.

“The more space one person uses, the less there is for the next, so taking the extra time to fold down cardboard is a quick, considerate, and easy action that avoids irritation and hostility.

As the research shows, we need to do more to help each other, so next time you are putting out your recycling, think beyond the bin and take a moment to check your recycling manners.”

Bryant’s top tips include making the most of what you have – breaking down and flattening your cardboard boxes – tidy bin, tidy mind – make sure you place all your recycling in the bin properly, and don’t create mess by dropping small pieces of litter around the area – and make the effort when you can, which involves getting into a good recycling routine.

Lead by example – showing others how to recycle well and with consideration for the whole community – reach out to help – thinking about others who may need your help – and flatten existing tensions – avoiding aggression and confrontation with Folding-Phobes and messy recyclers – are also suggested by Bryant to combat the alarming research.

When asked about the barriers people face when it comes to recycling, a third (33 per cent) of respondents cited a lack of necessary space or access to their recycling bin as a key inhibitor to effective recycling.

Those living in flats and with communal bins were 25 per cent more likely to face challenges than people with individual household recycling bins.

In turn, this is resulting in as many as 58 million cardboard boxes every week either ending up in general waste or being recycled later, if they end up being recycled at all.

The three key drivers behind the increase in cardboard hoarding are volume – 50 per cent are ordering more to their homes than before the pandemic with 42 per cent prioritising products packaged in cardboard rather than plastic – bin-adequate – 26 per cent say it is due to the inadequate provision of recycling bins – and distance, with those using communal recycling systems such as in flats being 16 per cent less likely to recycle cardboard boxes because of the distance to recycling bins.

Michael Orye, Managing Director, Recycling, DS Smith, commented: “With more people shopping online and more packaging coming to our homes, collection systems are sometimes struggling to cope with the increased volumes of cardboard.

Most of us agree that we must look after resources and keep them in use for as long as possible. Cardboard is no different, as it is a renewable resource that can be easily recycled.

If people can flatten their cardboard, it helps to maximise the available space in our recycling bins, but we also need to make sure we have the right infrastructure in place to support better recycling.

“By maximising the amount of cardboard packaging, we recycle, we in turn protect our natural resources and contribute to the move towards a more circular economy.”

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